Sidi Toure: Blues and Tradition

Sidi Touré is just the ambassador Mali needs right now. The Malian singer/guitarist released his second album just as the African nation erupted in conflict after a coup d'etat and a secessionist uprising in the strife-plagued north. A quietly passionate, contemplative collection of folk blues, Koïma seems to speak to the chaos around it from Touré's unique perspective on Malian politics: Currently based in Mali's capital city Bamako, Touré is cut off from his hometown Gao (claimed by the rebels) and his family. Koïma also speaks to Touré's global and local experiences via the Songhaï folk style, which varies from rollicking wedding songs to ritual music, but he cuts it with transatlantic blues.

"Kalaa Ay Makoïy (I Must Go)" crafts a mournful, finger-picked African folk melody that flows into a country-blues breakdown. And the title track, named for a Gao landmark, also encourages koïma's literal meaning ("go hear") with its bright, full sound, the result of Touré recording for the first time with a five-part ensemble, including soukou fiddle. On tracks like "Ni See Ay Ga Done" Touré draws that insistent, clattering web of interlocking parts and alternating call and response vocals into the type of ardent, thoughtful dialogue Mali desperately needs. – Rachel Devitt, Google Play

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